The specific mechanisms by which selective pressures affect individuals are often difficult to resolve. In tephritid fruit flies, males respond strongly and positively to certain plant derived chemicals. Sexual selection by female choice has been hypothesized as the mechanism driving this behaviour in certain species, as females preferentially mate with males that have fed on these chemicals. This hypothesis is, to date, based on studies of only very few species and its generality is largely untested. We tested the hypothesis on different spatial scales (small cage and seminatural field-cage) using the monophagous fruit fly, Bactrocera cacuminata. This species is known to respond to methyl eugenol (ME), a chemical found in many plant species and one upon which previous studies have focused. Contrary to expectation, no obvious female choice was apparent in selecting ME-fed males over unfed males as measured by the number of matings achieved over time, copulation duration, or time of copulation initiation. However, the number of matings achieved by ME-fed males was significantly greater than unfed males 16 and 32 days after exposure to ME in small cages (but not in a field-cage). This delayed advantage suggests that ME may not influence the pheromone system of B. cacuminata but may have other consequences, acting on some other fitness consequence (e.g., enhancement of physiology or survival) of male exposure to these chemicals. We discuss the ecological and evolutionary implications of our findings to explore alternate hypotheses to explain the patterns of response of dacine fruit flies to specific plant-derived chemicals
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